Bringing home the bacon

I know, I know I said bacon and the picture is of sausages!

March already, when did that happen! So much for my resolution to try and post more on the blog. It’s not like I haven’t had anything to report, as we have kept ourselves busy and the house becomes more of a house everyday.

Still I’m writing this now so lets see if I ever push the publish button.

Despite the title it’s not a post about pigs, although they have in there own way contributed to the running of our little small holding (homestead) and that is essentially what this post is all about, the financial aspects of our new life.

In true Grand Designs fashion we have exceeded our original budget for the house and as we enter the final furlong and finish it off it is true to say that we are starting to have to make compromises in order that we finish at all, but then what is money for if not to spend?

Mind you as the zeros disappeared from our pot of money and it was no longer necessary to take of my shoes to work out what we have left, our minds became more focused on what we spent on a day to day basis and a year long spreadsheet offers some interesting insights.

The big picture shows that we now spend in a year what we used to earn in a month back in the UK! That includes pretty much everything from insurance to petrol, to electricity to food. Although to put this in perspective our total outgoings are roughly equivalent to the annual minimum wage for a single person in Poland.

Drilling down a bit further it’s hard to ignore that one months mortgage payment back in the UK now feeds us for an entire year! This includes all household sundries like toilet paper and toothpaste, not to mention the associated expenses of having a bundle of joy in the house and five dependant pets. I even put clothes in the category as we are managing quite well on western Europes discarded clothes, which end up for sale in the second hand shops of Poland. It’s hard to believe what gets thrown away.

Insurance remains the single biggest expense after food, but it is a necessary evil, especially the national health insurance which provides us with medical care should we need it. Malina receives free care until she is eighteen so at least we don’t have to worry about her for a while. Farm insurance is compulsory and house insurance provides a certain peace of mind, however car insurance when you have two vehicles is probably something we can cut down on in the future, once we have improved our road further and made it more car friendly!

Fuel hits the stats next as a sizable chunk of our annual budget, although thanks to the recent drop in prices and the less frequent trips to the builders merchant, I expect it to be further down the list this coming year.

The only other sizable chunk that goes out is for electricity, but our bill for the house is little more than it was for our flat and the only other purchased fuel that we use is bottled gas which is so unbelievably cheap that it hardly registers. Hard to believe that an 11Kg bottle of gas that I was selling at a garage in Jersey (my last job) for £60 can be purchased in Poland for less than £10. It makes you wonder who is making all the money?

Of course despite it been quite worrying that such disparity exists, between even European countries, it does work in our favour and it has enabled us to live a life that we could have only dreamed about when we were back in the UK. Any wonder that so many from the old Eastern block flock to the richer western nations to earn good money!

But as we do run out of money we have become more focused on how we will survive in the future and as ‘groceries’ are the single most expensive category of expenditure we are taking steps to produce more of our own food, increasing veg production and widening the range of animals we keep, including rabbits and, hopefully soon, sheep once again. Our goats should also increase in number if the village Billy did his job, which in turn provides us with milk. And with our relative success with pigs last year we will be setting aside a patch of land to be turned over again this year.

It’s worth noting at this point that, having added up the cost of producing our own food, it costs far less than buying it in, but only if you don’t account for your time. Once you add in time at even half of the current minimum wage (about £1.50, $2, €2 per hour) then you would be far better off going to the shops. Of course you never know what you are really buying at the shops and that’s the main reason we do what we do, we are in control of our food!

It is maybe because of this, and slowly changing attitudes in Poland, that we have started to generate some interest in our produce to purchase, and whilst it’s only on a very small scale at the moment we do manage to sell a few eggs and rabbits. Hopefully some of the vegetables will be added to this list once nature plays its hand and we have crops in abundance. We are also in the market to trade and we hope that last years bumper crop of oats will turn into a lamb or two in the near future. Does anybody have anything else to trade?

Gosia, practical as ever, probably holds our best hope of maintaining the lifestyle that we have by going into production of soaps. I can’t remember how it started but she has quickly developed a small trade in handmade soaps, creating or adapting existing recipes to make truly impressive bars of soap, bath bombs, hand creams and most recently shaving foam! I’m a little behind the curve on this one and have yet to develop the website and other marketing paraphernalia, but a few details can be found here and here or click the page link at the top of the page ‘Soaps for march 2015’

I can also say with confidence that we should be able to take paying guests in the not too distant future, but exactly when is hard to say. I’m only willing to commit to saying ‘this year’ so if you want to book for Chrismas 2016 you are welcome 🙂

Of course my biggest asset is my ability to speak English and whilst I only do a minimal amount of English conversation lessons, I’m sure it is something that I could expand upon, once the house is finished!

And if all else fails I still have my kidneys! (not the picture below, that’s for Pete 🙂



Author: Eddy Winko

Left the rat race to live a less hectic and harmful life. From the building of a straw bale house to the composting toilet diaries; read my blog

33 thoughts on “Bringing home the bacon”

  1. Nice read, absolutely agree with the cost element, we just had a sow killed which produced 160kilo of sausage, we sell these at £11 for three packs of 6 but they cost £2:30 to produce the sausage, £65 to kill the pig and my time and feed bill, but oh what flavour. if you have not already read it look up our post “today I Killed our Pig” I agree with your previous comment we have much in common in our chosen occupations.

    1. Thanks for popping by and commenting.
      160Kg, that a big pig, but if I remember this was an unproductive sow? We have yet to breed our own, instead buying them in at 8 weeks, although I can see this developing. Thankfully we grow all our own feed which cuts the cost considerably, it just takes more time and effort. Either way there is no denying the taste is fa superior to anything you would buy in the shops. Cheers!

  2. Eddy, you are a true pioneer! It takes a lot of courage to do what you’re doing, and a lot of hard work and perseverance. It sounds like the homestead is nearing completion, and that, once you’re over the finish line, you’ll be able to get a better handle on annual expenses as well as how much livestock, crop, and soap manufacturing revenue can be reliably entered into the equation. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors!

    1. I read back over an old post the other day and I expected the house to be finished by the end of 2013! This year, I promise, this year. Mind you the work will never be done and that in itself is why we like it so much, the daily, weekly, monthly, annual challenge. It’s just a shame money is in the mix, but the soaps are going well, we even shipped to the US last week 🙂 It must get dusty in Nevada? 🙂

  3. If you sell to the US, I’d like to get some of those soaps. Let me know how to order…Do I need a PayPal account?
    On a different note, if you can come up with a sure-fire tea that helps people sleep, that would be a real money-maker. In the meantime, keep writing for your long term project, “The Strawbale Building Adventure in Poland” book. I expect to see that on Amazon in a few year’s time. Then the movie. 🙂

    1. HI Pat, good to hear from you. We are using Paypal for the moment, it seems to be fairly universal, although I would have to check of the price of delivery which I fear would be quite high.
      I know a few herbalists, so I’ll see if they have any suggestions, although one is based in Amsterdam so who knows what she puts in her brews 🙂

  4. Great to read your next post. I’ve got to admit I read it at work but as i’m paid typical Polish salary I feel totally entitled to do it 😉 Greetings for my boss, hope he doesn’t read this… Still hope to meet you and see your strawhouse when spring will come with nice bicycle-compatible weather.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, it’s been so long since I posted I wondered if anyone would read it. Thankfully you found some free time at work 🙂
      I hear the birds singing every day and the grass has started to grow so the spring must surly be here soon and an end to this rain! Looking forward to better weather and working outside again.

  5. Making ends meet is a slippery slope
    All of us walk on that tightrope

    Each family finds its way to cope
    Raising veggies or selling soap

    No need to sit around and mope
    (try asking help from the pope)

    1. He still has a big following around here, but I don’t think asking him for help does much good. I’d much rather follow you and get by on smiles 🙂

  6. Yay, you blogged again. 🙂 It’s inspiring to read about a family successfully making such changes. Gosia’s soaps are seriously beautiful. You get on that website for her, pronto!
    Do you find you are able to raise the various livestock for a reasonable cost? It sounds like you can raise your own feed, at least in part, which offsets much of the expense. If they can forage for themselves, even better. I ask because I’ve raised pigs, various types of fowl, and notably, rabbits. Their feed (here at least) was pricey. I still feel it was worth it, as their quality of life, and the quality of my dinner, was quite high. Still, when money is very tight, you need to find it somewhere… :/
    Interestingly, my insurance costs are one of my highest expenses too. Hard to get around that, though. Having fewer vehicles made a noticeable difference. Instead of 2 large cars, driving a scooter saves $$$$. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!
    Take care guys o/

    1. Hi Parker, good to see you here, I’ll try and keep the momentum going and get some more posts out 🙂
      We have grown all out own feed for the animals, so whilst they don’t grow quite as fast they are as organic and as we can make them, not to mention free range…except for the rabbits who will have to wait for better weather 🙂
      We often talk about ditching one of the cars and getting a scooter, we had one back in the UK, as you say great fun 🙂

    1. Thank you Emilio, good to know that you liked and commented on my post. (having read one of your recent ones)!
      I’m still waiting to read about your future plans, or maybe you moved already and I missed that post?

      1. We’re waiting on an offer on our house. If it goes through, we’ll be homeless in a few months. The current plan is to be nomads for a bit. After that . . . we have no idea.

        At some point, I assume a path will become clear to us. If not, we’ll wander the Earth until the end of our days.

  7. Welcome back in the blogosphere & on the down-scaling track !

    Once the growth based, ponzi scheme economy bubble bursts U will those who might survive.

    10 pounds for the 11 kg is 1,5 too much as an average price is 49 PLN. 🙂
    How about future investment in home-produced bio-gas ?
    (I know, I know, You’d feel sorry for using the substrate to feed a bio-digester not the humanure pile microorganisms ;-))

    As to :”Any wonder that so many from the old Eastern block flock to the richer western nations to earn good money!”

    Not to mention the disparaging, feudal-like attitude of polish employers to their subordinates.
    But this advantage keeps dissipating as economic slowdown continues & there is enough workforce around to replace the well paid workers with those “more flexible” ones.
    Moreover polish managers are being Europe-wide appreciated for “a perfect streamlining abilities”. (yeap…I’m sure we are able to create hell-like working conditions & spoil any kind of a positive relationship – even in a paradise)

    as to:“It’s hard to believe what gets thrown away.”
    well.. I can’t recall any piece of my garment having been bought in a “normal shop”. Second hand shops offer items of a much higher quality.
    But I can hardly stand for an example of a “typical polish” 😉

    btw. as to kidneys I’d count for it ;-).
    Moldovan ones are offered on a much lower bid.

    Are the sausages home made?

    1. HI Rafal, thanks for popping in. You are right about the price of gas of course, I think we pay 46 and if we know the guy he fills up from the car tank and we fill up for 40 (£7.23)! Hardly worth collecting the gas 🙂
      I’m a lover of what Gosia finds in the second hand shops, I myself rarely go in, I’m more likely to be in the van reading a book whilst I wait 🙂
      Our own recipe English breakfast sausage, this was our test batch before we filled the freezer.

      1. With that price of gas – definitely not!
        The IRR of such investment is so low that it would bring benefits to Malinas grandsons 🙂
        Would U be willing to share the receipe?
        What kind of feeder/filler do U use?
        Is the sausage gut casing shop-bought or some neighbour’s product?

      2. We used a mixture and shoulder and belly pork, breadcrumbs (about 10%) plus a teaspoon of sage, thyme, salt and pepper per Kg of mix. Casings are shop bought as it takes a lot of work to clean the intestines, besides we used ours for Kaszanka. The tester sausages we used our mincer to fill the skins. The remaining batch was done with an old hand mincer that was adapted to run on an old electric motor, attached to a sewing machine pedal to regulate the speed 🙂

      3. Thanks for the receipe. So as to reciprocate in a proper form 😉 I shall soon post our receipe for a “white sausages” (also well tried & tested).
        Today we’re going to buy some meat from a farmer.
        btw. would U be willnig to share a photo of the repurposed hand mincer,pls?
        I’ve thought of constructing one like this for quite some time already.
        What’s the power of the engine applied ?

      4. No pictures of the event or equipment I’m afraid. The guy from the village who does the killing brought the equipment. I’d guess the motor was something out of an old washing machine, mounted on a piece of wood, driving the mincer by an old fan belt, the mincer was something you would see at a second hand market for 20 zloty, nothing special. We used a Moulinex for the testers, and will probably use this next time and make all our own.

  8. Nice to see you back, Eddy. (No picture of sausages though…)
    I checked out the soap link, and was duly impressed. Well done, Gosia!
    Your comparison of living costs and relative wages makes me understand why so many Polish people are attracted to working in the UK. Even at minimum wage, they must be a great deal better off, with money to send home.
    I think you should be proud of what you have both achieved, (including that composting toilet) and I wish you continued prosperity, and more good luck in the future.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Cheers Pete, I understand that the minimum wage will be going up soon under the new government, but it will still be just over a couple of quid after tax! More composting news on the way soon, much to report 🙂 Hope you are feeling a bit better, I have added a picture of our homemade sausages the bottom of the post to spur you on 🙂 All the best from the well fed Winkos.

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